THE worlds are inhabited by countless grades of beings,
ranging from the highest Devas (of whom there are
many classes and degrees) to the lowest animal life.
The scale of beings runs from the shining manifestations
to the spirit of those in which it is so veiled that it
would seem almost to have disappeared in its material
covering. There is but one Light, one Spirit, whose manifestations
are many. A flame enclosed in a clear glass
loses but little of its brilliancy. If we substitute for the
glass, paper, or some other more opaque yet transparent
substance, the light is dimmer. A covering of metal may
be so dense as to exclude from sight the rays of light
which yet burns within with an equal brilliancy. As a
fact, all such veiling forms are māyā. They are none the
less true for those who live in and are themselves part of
the māyik world. Deva, or “heavenly and shining one”—
for spirit is light and self-manifestation—is applicable to
those descending yet high manifestations of the Brahman,
such as the seven Śivas, including the Trinity (trimūrti),
Brahma, Viṣṇu, and Rudra. Devī again, is the
title of the Supreme Mother Herself, and is again
applied to the manifold forms assumed by the one only
Māyā, such as Kālī, Sarasvatī, Lakṣ mī, Gaurī, Gāyatrī,
Saṃ dhyā, and others. In the sense also in which it is
said,1 “Verily, in the beginning there was the Brahman.
It created the Devas”; the latter term also includes lofty
intelligences belonging to the created world inter-
1 Bṛ hadāranyaka Up. (ix. 2-3-2).
mediate between Īśvara (Himself a Puruṣ a) and man,
who in the person of the Brāhmaṇ a is known as Earthdeva
(bhūdeva).1 These spirits are of varying degrees.
For there are no breaks in the creation which represents
an apparent descent of the Brahman in gradually
lowered forms. Throughout these forms play the divine
currents of pravṛ tti and nivṛ tti, the latter drawing to
Itself that which the former has sent forth.2
Deva, jīva and jada (inorganic matter) are, in their
real, as opposed to their phenomenal and illusory being,
the one Brahman, which appears thus to be other than
Itself through its connection with the upādhi or limiting
conditions with which ignorance (avidyā) invests it.
Therefore all being which are the object of worship are
each of them but the Brahman seen though the veil of
avidyā. Though the worshippers of Devas may not know
it, their worship is in reality the worship of the Brahman,
and hence the Mahānirvāṇ a-Tantra says3 that, “as
all streams flow to the ocean, so the worship given to
any Deva is received by the Brahman.” On the other
hand, those who, knowing this, worship the Devas, do so
as manifestations, of Brahman, and thus worship It
1 In like manner, the priest of the Church on earth is
called by Malachi
(ii. 7) “angel,” which is as Pseudo-Dionysius AreopagitŠ says: “From his
announcement of the truth and from his desire and office of purifying,
illuminating, and perfecting those committed to his charge”; the
office, in fact, when properly understood and given effect to.
2 The hierarchies have also their reason and uses in Christian theology:
“Totus conatus omnium spirituum est referee Deum. Deus in primis
assimilat quod vicina sunt ei; assimilata deinceps assimilant. Ita
derivatis deitatis ab ordine in ordinem et ab hierarchia in hierarchiam
melioribus creaturis in deteriores pro capacitate cujusque in
omnium.” (“Coletus de Coelesti Hierarchia Dionysii AreopagitŠ,” chap,
3 Chapter 11, verse 50, a common statement which appears in the
Bhagavadgitā and elsewhere.
mediately. The sun, the most glorious symbol in the physical world, is the māyik vesture of Her who is
“clothed with the sun.”
In the lower ranks of the celestial hierarchy are the
Devayonis, some of whom are mentioned in the opening
verses of the first chapter of the text. The Devas are of
two classes: “unborn” (ajāta)—that is, those which have
not, and those which have (sādhya) evolved from
humanity as in the case of King Nahusa, who became
Indra. Opposed to the divine hosts are the Asura, Dānavā,
Daitya, Rākṣ asa, who, with other spirits, represent
the tamasik or demonic element in creation. All
Devas, from the highest downwards, are subordinate to
both time and karma. So it is said, “Salutation to
Karma, over which not even Vidhi (Brahmā), prevails”
(Namastat karmabhyovidhirapi na yebhyah prabhavati).
1 The rendering of the term “Deva” as “God”2
has led to a misapprehension of Hindu thought. The
use of the term “angel” may also mislead, for though the
world of Devas has in some respects analogy to the
angelic choirs,3 the Christian conception of these Beings,
1 And again:
Ye samastā jagatsṛ ṣ ṭ isthitisamhāra kārinah
Te’pi kāleṣ u liyante kālo hi balavattarah.
((Even all those who are the cause of the creation, maintenance, and
of the world disappear in time because time is more strong than they).
2 Though, also, as Coletus says (“De Coelesta Dionysii Hierarchia,”
xii. 8) the Angels have been called " Gods”; “Quod autem angeli Dii
testatur iliud geneseos dictum Jacob a viro luctatore,” etc.
3 Particularly, as I have elsewhere shown, with such conception of the
celestial hierarchies as is presented by the work of the
that subject writtell under the influence of Eastern thought (Stephen
Sudaili and others). As to the Christian doctrine on the Angels, see
“De Angelis.” The patristic doctrine is summarised by Petavius “De
their origin and functions, does not include, but in fact excludes, other ideas connoted by the Sanskrit term.
The pitṛ s, or “Fathers,” are a creation (according to
some) separate from the predecessors of humanity, and
are, according to others, the lunar ancestry who are
addressed in prayer with the Devas. From Brahma, who
is known as the “Grandfather,” Pitā Mahā of the human
race, issued Marichi, Atri, and others, his “mental sons”:
the Agniṣ vāttāh, Saumsaya, Haviṣ mantah, Usmapāh,
and other classes of Pitṛ s, numbering, according to the
Mārkaṇ ḍ eya Purāṇ a, thirty-one. Tarpaṇ am, or oblation,
is daily offered to these pitṛ s. The term is also applied
to the human ancestors of the worshipper generally up
to the seventh generation to whom in śrāddha (the
obsequial rites) piṇ ḍ a and water are offered with the
The Ṛṣis are seers who know, and by their knowledge
are the makers of Śāstra and “see” all mantras.
The word comes from the root ṛṣ;1 Ṛṣati-prāpnoti sarvam
̣ mantraṃ jnānena paśyati sangsārapārangvā, etc.
The seven great Ṛ ṣ is or saptaṛ ṣ is of the first manvantara
are Marīcī, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya,
and Vaśiṣ ṭ ha. In other manvantaras there are other
saptaṛ ṣ is. In the present manvantara the seven are
Kāśyapa, Atri, Vaśiṣ tha, Viśvāmitra, Gautama, Jamadagni,
Bharadvāja. To the Ṛ ṣ is the Vedas were
revealed. Vyāsa taught the Ṛ gveda so revealed to Paila,
the Yajurveda to Vaisampayana, the Sāmaveda to
Jaimini, Atharvāveda to Sumantu, and Itihāsa and
Dogm, tom. III. The cabalistic names of the nine orders as given by
at p. 728 of his “Interpretationes in artis Cabalistice scriptores“
Purāṇ a to Sūta. The three chief classes of Ṛṣis are the
Brahmaṛṣi, born of the mind of Brahma, the Devaṛṣi of
lower rank, and Rājaṛṣi or Kings who became Ṛṣis
through their knowledge and austerities, such as
Janaka, Ṛ tapārṇ a, etc. The Śrutaṛṣi are makers of
Śastras, as Śuśruta. The Kāndaṛ ṣ i are of the Karmakānda,
such as Jaimini.
The Muni, who may be a Ṛṣi, is a sage. Muni is so
called on account of his mananam (mananāt munirucyate).
Mananam is that thought, investigation, and
discussion which marks the independent thinking mind.
First there is Śravanam, listening; then Mananam,
which is the thinking or understanding, discussion
upon, and testing of what is heard as opposed to the
mere acceptance on trust of the lower intelligence.
These two are followed by Nididhyāsanaṃ , which is
attention and profound meditation on the conclusions
(siddhānta) drawn from what is so heard and reasoned
upon. As the Mahabharata says, “The Vedas differ, and
so do the Smṛ tis. No one is a muni who has no independent
opinion of his own (nāsau muniryasya mataṃ
The human being is called jīva1—that is, the embodied
Ātmā possessed by egoism and of the notion that it
directs the puryaṣ taka, namely, the five organs of action
(karmendriya), the five organs of perception (jnānendriya),
the fourfold antahkarana or mental self (Manas,
Buddhi, Ahaṃ kāra, Citta), the five vital airs (Prāṇa),
the five elements, Kāma (desire), Karma (action and its
results), and Avidyā (illusion). When these false notions
1 That is specially so as all embodiments, whether
human or not, of the
Paramātmā are jīva.
are destroyed, the embodiment is destroyed, and the
wearer of the māyik garment attains nirvāṇ a. When
the jīva is absorbed in Brahman, there is no longer any
jīva remaining as such.